If I'd paid the full whack $2,495 to attend the Enterprise 2.0 conference I'd be demanding at least a partial refund. It seems the 'Enterprise 2.0 - what a crock' debate was less than a damp squib and more like a feeble whimper. Here's the back story:
Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types - except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then - where are the use cases? I’d like to know.
Susan Scrupski asked me if I was going to attend Enterprise 2.0 and would I participate on the panel. Given what I had already said and after I stopped laughing, the answer was an emphatic no. Why would I waste my time listening to a bunch of talking heads trot out the same claptrap I've been hearing the last several years? It seems the panel didn't disappoint my lowly expectations. This is what one attendee said of the debate:
They delivered some interesting, but disappointingly similar-sounding, defenses of how technologies like blogs, wikis, and social networks can benefit big companies. The panelists said that one of the hurdles to convincing enterprise-scale organizations that these new tools are worth their money is the difficulty in quantifying the business benefits. It’s hard to calculate an exact return on investment when it comes to better collaboration: “When somebody figures that out, they’ll make a million,” said Greg Lowe, social media architect and program manager at Alcatel
On the Twitter back channel, Nenshad Bardoliwalla told me:
Your presence here at #e2conf is very palpable. They had a whole panel to answer your question on value, and failed MISERABLY.
Very flattering Nenshad but is that The Ghost of Christmas Future?Why am I not surprised? I've argued for years that the notion of anything that has 'social' attached to its moniker is about as welcome as breaking wind in a spacesuit. I've also argued that I've never heard anyone ask for some Enterprise 2.0 though I've heard plenty ask for ERP, CRM etc. Most recently, the new buzz phrase 'social business design' has hit the streets. Here's one definition:
Social Business Design is the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.
Its goal: helping organizations improve value exchange among constituents.
Good luck with that one.
Perhaps the panel would have done better had they taken a leaf out of Andrew McAfee's book. In his presentation about Enterprise 2.0 no-no's, he says:
Like too many words in the English language, 'social' has taken on a handful of different meanings. Though most would probably agree that technically it's an accurate word when used to describe various enterprise solutions, the implications are not always desirable.
"I have never come across a word that has more negative connotations to a busy pragmatic manager," said McAfee, explaining that he's seen many-a-boss assume that 'social' tools wouldn't help anything but employees talk too much and goof off.
Though McAfee didn't suggest a new or better word to use (collaboration? communities?) he finished the presentation with an interesting image choice to illustrate how some managers interpret the use of 'social' solutions: two dirty hippies hugging it out at Woodstock, surrounded by litter and despair.
[My emphasis added]
At this point I must give Andy McAfee full credit for acknowledging the bleeding obvious. Isn't that what I've been saying for years? The problem for those trying to pimp this stuff is they're now stuck with two things: 'social' intermingled at every turn because no-one can think of anything better and 2.0 which roots them at a moment in time. It's a classic example of bandwagon marketing that looks sexy yet has gone nuts in the process. Crowdsourcing at its worst.
I find it amazing that despite the relentless spin on this topic, it seems the challenges of changing culture take the hand wavers by complete surprise. The only conclusion I can reach is that none of these people has done any significant work inside organizations or if they have then they haven't a clue about how business is organized, how the moving parts operate, how business cultures develop or what motivates people to work. If true then they are either charlatans or dim witted.
What I find staggering is that despite the panel's general acknowledgment that 'it is early days' they have no clear answers for solving the problems that Enterprise 2.0 evokes. If this is the best that industry can put forward then forget it. There are far bigger problems to solve like correctly managing the workforce in times of economic crisis, smoothing out lumpy supply chains, beating down on data center costs or just getting ERP to deliver the benefits that were intended and which have consumed billions of IT spend dollars.
For those interested in such things: here's a blow by blow account of the Enterprise 2.0 debate from Timo Elliott. I was nodding off to sleep after the first couple of answers.
I spoke to a few large companies (that will remain nameless) in private that were brutally honest with me about how disjointed their departments are and they honestly don’t believe that their organizations are not going to make this change, how can they? I feel like the E2.0 panel I’m watching right now is so watered down that it’s almost pointless; it’s just not reality.